Den Helder

The first Jews settled in Den Helder around 1790. In 1806, the Jews of Den Helder purchased a small building in the Jodensteeg (Jew's Alley) and converted it into a synagogue. The opening of the North Holland Canal in 1824 led to an influx of Jews into Den Helder. This led to the construction of an impressive new synagogue on the Kanaalweg, consecrated in 1837. The Jewish cemetery in the nearby dunes at Huisduinen (close to the present-day public cemetery on the Duinweg/Kerkhoflaan) dates to 1827.

Opvoering van een Poeriemspel in Den Helder, ca. 1930

Strengthening a Purim play in Den Helder, about 1930


coll. Rescue Museum Dorus Austrians, Den Helder

In 1837, donations from the Rothschild family made possible the construction of a Jewish school in Den Helder. The number of students attending the school peaked during the mid-nineteenth century.

The synagogue council of Den Helder was made up of seven members. They also functioned as a board for caring for the poor. Two members of the council also served as fundraisers for Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. Jewish voluntary groups in Den Helder included a fellowship for Torah study, a burial society, a youth association, a cultural society, and a women's society for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue.

A downturn in the economy of Den Helder caused by the opening of the North Sea Canal in 1876 led to a decline in the local Jewish population. Notwithstanding, in 1928 a new synagogue was constructed on the site of the old.

Prentbriefkaart van het werkdorp in de Wieringermeer, 1941

Postcard of the labor settlement in Wieringermeer, 1941

In 1934, Jewish organizations opened a work camp for young Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany at Nieuwesluis, in the midst of land newly reclaimed from the sea at Wieringermeer. There, refugees studied agronomy and related subjects, as well as practical aspects of farming to prepare them for emigration to Palestine. A total of 685 young people passed through the camp, of who 415 emigrated to Palestine or elsewhere. The camp was closed by the Germans in 1941.

The German bombardment of Den Helder in 1940 caused more than 38,000 residents to flee the city, including many Jews. Those Jews who remained behind were deported in 1942 first to Amsterdam and then, via the detention camp at Westerbork, to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe. None returned. The synagogue, along with the rest of Den Helder's harbor district was razed by the Germans during the construction of fortifications.

In 1964 the Jewish community of Den Helder was merged into that of the city of Alkmaar. Local authorities maintain the Jewish cemetery. In 1986, a number of interesting gravestones were restored. In 2002, the local Jewish society "Sufah" restored the entire cemetery. In 1989, a monument was unveiled at the former work camp at the Wieringermeer. A scroll contains the names of 200 former camp members murdered during the war.

A plaque in memory of the 256 Jews from Den helder ws unveiled at the Jewish cemetery in April 2005.

The Jewish population of Den Helder and surroundings:

The size of the Jewish community over time